Monday, April 15, 2013

Up Close with Andre Leon Talley at FIAF - April 15, 2013

Andre Leon Talley spoke to a sold out crowd at the FIAF ( French Institute ) in New York City on April 15, 2013 about his life and new book Little Black Dress. Andre treated the audience to his vast knowledge of the art, history, and design in fashion while weaving in stories of his humble upbringing in Durham North Carolina.  It was an intellectual and reflective side of Andre rarely shown on his cameo appearances in pop culture.
Andre guides the audience through notable black dresses from his new book
Skilled at making fashion lectures entertaining with his unique point of view.
Andre spoke extensively about the two main influences of his life - Diana Vreeland, and his grandmother - Bennie Francis Davis, both who could not be more similar and different.  
 Diana Vreeland
Vreeland was a renowned fashion editor in contrast to his grandmother - a domestic maid who lived very well and orderly on modest means.  She had rituals of dressing her best for church, keeping fresh smelling linen sheets at home, and making decadent fruit cake in Thanksgiving for Christmas (cheesecloth is draped over the cake and liquor would be poured over the cake every day for weeks).

Andre's grandmother Bennie Francis Davis
Andre presented fascinating stories and observations of over two dozen black couture dresses from a fashion exhibit he curated for the SCAD Museum of Art (Savannah College of Art & Design).  To curate this exhibit, Andre had his network of designer and celebrity friends donate a dress - and many of these dresses were black, hence the title his latest book, appropriately named - Little Black Dress.  

For the book cover, Andre chose a modern black dress by Karl Lagerfeld - made of boucle with silk trimmings.
Little Black Dress
Caroline Herrera's resort 2013 collection - this elegant gown is made of organza - printed to look like lace!
Caroline Herrera's resort 2013 collection
This Pierre Cardin dress has a firm yet elegant composition of a blooming upside-down flower
Pierre Cardin

If Chanel had a way with metal chains on leather handbags, Ghesquiere adorned them just as well on a dress.
This dress with exquisite ribbon work from Rodarte's 2006 collection has a life of it's own.
Rodarte's 2006 collection
For dresses with futuristic elements, Andre showed several black dresses made from the scuba diving suit material Neoprene.  
Et Ochs 2013 dress is draped in scuba diving suit material Neoprene photo: Adam Kuehl, SCAD
Ending with an audience Q&A, Andre reminisces about his formative years of growing up companionship from extended family and a church founded by his late great grandmother.  This experience taught him to learn about life by observing and taking good mental notes from his elders.  

Andre credits where he is today to learning from great talents like Andy Warhol (whom he met while working at Warhol's Interview Magazine), Karl Lagerfeld (whom he was introduced to by Warhol), and Diana Vreeland (whom he worked with at the Costume Institute at the MET).  He encouraged the audience to do the same - to seek and learn directly from the best people around you.  We should not rely on Googling things up is not a substitute for knowledge.

The audience came dressed their best for this event!
And to an audience member who inquired for advice on how to succeed with a fashion line, he encouraged her to go to Paris.  New York may be everyone is trying to succeed but Paris is where fashion inspiration is to be found.

Andre sports an African chief priest look with a horn amulet and a black dress!


  1. This recap was covered everything he discussed! Thanks for the "best dressed" compliment! Check me out at

  2. Thank you :) If you liked the talk, you should check out the documentary, Diana Vreeland - The Eyes has to Travel, it's a fascinating look at modern fashion history!

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